GT Exclusive: Canadian envoy says ‘major issue’ resolved in China-Canada ties with Meng's release, but China thinks more needs to be done
Meng’s return removes biggest hurdle, but the US always poses risks
Published: Oct 28, 2021 08:23 PM
China Canada Photo: VCG

China Canada Photo: VCG

Chinese analysts on Thursday cautioned that the US may continue to pose uncertainties and risks to China-Canada bilateral ties, and they called on Ottawa to refrain from blindly following Washington in its attempt to contain China, as Chinese and Canadian officials seek to improve bilateral ties after the biggest hurdle has been removed with Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou's return to China.

Officials from both sides on Wednesday struck a rare positive note on the prospects of China-Canada relationship after nearly three years of diplomatic tensions. However, officials also acknowledged lingering challenges. 

As Canada is reportedly close to a decision on whether or not allow Huawei to participate in its 5G networks rollout, a senior Chinese official has called on Ottawa to provide a fair treatment for Chinese firms.

Speaking at the 43rd Canada-China Business Council (CCBC) business dinner in Beijing on Wednesday via video link, Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce Wang Shouwen said that Meng's return to China removed the "biggest hurdle" between China and Canada, however, he cautioned that it does not mean the fraught bilateral ties will improve automatically.

"Relations between countries should be based on mutual respect and benefit. We hope the Canadian side can meet China halfway, stop interference into China's internal affairs, and pursue a rational and pragmatic dialogue policy," Wang said, urging Ottawa to "create conditions to put bilateral ties back on track."

Wang also called on the Canadian side to resist protectionism and create a better environment for Chinese companies, including Huawei.

Citing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Reuters reported on September 29 that Canada's decision on whether to ban Huawei from the build-out of Canada's 5G mobile networks, as all the other members of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance have, is likely to be made in the "coming weeks."

Huawei has operated in Canada for more than a decade without any security lapses or incidents, Steve Liu, the vice president of public affairs and communications at Huawei, told the Global Times on Wednesday, adding that "Canada should adopt an independent policy and decision-making process."

In an interview with the Global Times on Wednesday, Canadian Ambassador to China Dominic Barton did not provide details on Canada's upcoming 5G decision, but he spoke positively about the bilateral relationship after Meng's release.

"What I just think we should reflect on is, we've not saying we've solved all the problems. We've still got lots of issues, but a major emotional issue is now off the table," said the ambassador.

"We should be happy that the major issue has been resolved, and that's good," said Barton, stressing that he is positive on bilateral ties, though disputes remain. He even cited a Chinese poem to describe the relationship after Meng's case: "There are high mountains, wild rivers, and you can get lost, but in the shade of the willow tree, you can see bright flowers and villages on the horizon".

Business groups are also looking forward to a better bilateral relationship, which has frozen business deals and led to less frequent business exchanges.

"This is good news for both sides…There are certainly some investments that we may want to start looking at again, which may have been put on the side or shelved for a little while during this difficult time," Noah Fraser, managing director and chief representative in China of the CCBC, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

However, hurdles remain for China-Canada ties, as the US is always an uncertain factor looming over the relationship, experts said.

China-Canada ties largely hinge on the relations between the world's two largest economies -- China and the US, He Weiwen, a former senior trade official and an executive council member of the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies, told the Global Times on Thursday.

He said that Meng's successful return to the motherland also offered an opportunity for the improvement of bilateral ties that Canada should not miss out on. 

"As we can see, the trade and economic ties between China and the US are warming up," He said.

China and the US have agreed to ramp up bilateral trade talks in the coming days. Chinese Vice Premier Liu He held a video conversation with US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday and they agreed to increase economic dialogue.